Feeds

back to article Firefox's birthday present to us: Teaching tech titans about DIY upstarts

It's hard to believe it now, but not too long ago the web was dangerously close to being owned by one vendor: Microsoft. As mainstream users came to equate Internet Explorer's logo with the Web, Microsoft worked to lock in its advantage with increasingly proprietary technology like ActiveX. It surely would have done so, too, but …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

Page:

Headmaster

I don't think that word means what you think it does...

"but for the seemingly futile Mozilla browser, née Firefox. Born in the ashes of Netscape's failed browser business 10 years ago this month as Phoenix,"

Surely then "the seemingly futile Mozilla browser, née Phoenix...", no?

14
0
Alert

Re: I don't think that word means what you think it does...

Mozilla browser (as it was formally know) became Firefox.

née means a change of name I believe? So.... its correct?

0
10
Bronze badge

Re: I don't think that word means what you think it does...

Née is the past participle of the French verb naître i.e.to be born. Usually in English this is used to indicate a woman's change of surname due to marriage. e.g. Mrs. Smith née Jones meaning that Miss Jones became Mrs Smith.

17
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: I don't think that word means what you think it does...

It was more like Mozilla browser was forked, optimised and called Phoenix, which later had to be renamed due to a name conflict.

1
2
Thumb Up

Re: I don't think that word means what you think it does...

Exactly - Mrs. Smith née Jones means Mrs. Smith was born Miss Jones.

2
0
Silver badge
Headmaster

Re: I don't think that word means what you think it does...

Phoenix wasn't the first name. It was originally called m/b when the project was started. m/b = mozilla/browser.

0
0
Silver badge

Re: I don't think that word means what you think it does...

It was more like Mozilla browser was forked, optimised and called Phoenix, which later had to be renamed due to a name conflict.

...to Firebird (which is when I came in). Then they had to rename it again. Whoops.

0
0
Silver badge

Re: I don't think that word means what you think it does...

"It was more like Mozilla browser was forked, optimised and called Phoenix, which later had to be renamed due to a name conflict."

It wasn't forked it was a branch and the idea of splitting out the apps in the communicator suite had been floating around for quite some time.

Netscape was already producing standalone prototypes way before Firefox. One of these was intended as a Thunderbird-esque email client for AOL but in the end AOL produced their own standalone Thunderbird-esque email client but they did so using wx windows, with Gecko used for rendering the email.

Then AOL took a moneyhat from Microsoft to settle a suit and everyone working on Mozilla was done away with. Fortunately AOL spun off Mozilla as a standalone company with some seed money and here we are.

0
0
WTF?

I maybe wrong....

"The message there is that human beings needn't simply wait for new gadgets to be bestowed upon them by the tech gods - they can go and make them themselves, and improve their world."

Hmmmm that'd mean you don't use Apples rendering for webpages on iOS devices. I believe you do even if its "firefox" your running the rendering system is still Apples? So much for throwing down those walls.

0
1
Silver badge

Re: I maybe wrong....

Hmmmm that'd mean you don't use Apples rendering for webpages on iOS devices. I believe you do even if its "firefox" your running the rendering system is still Apples? So much for throwing down those walls.

Have they actually done that yet? I know they refused for years to do that, then recently were um'ing and ah'ing about it.

0
0
Stop

When I bought RogueTouch through Apple's App Store I didn't buy it from ChronoSoft, the developer. I bought it from Apple, and were I to move to Android I'd have to buy it again... from Google.

I understand what you're trying to get at it here, but I can't quite agree. Even if you bought direct from ChronoSoft you would still only be getting the iOS version. Unless of course you want the purchase cost to contribute to the costs of developing for every supported platform. To some extent it may be that they already do, but that's very different to 'buy once, run on anything'.

It'd be different if you could write something for iOS and it'd run on Android, or at least be cheap to port, but that's not going to happen for some time. Even if it did, how many companies would use the true cost, rather than going "this would be £5 per platform, we support 6 platforms so we'll sell for £30"

Most companies I know (there are exceptions) won't let me have the OSX or Linux version just because I've already paid for the Windows version. Can't see it happening in the mobile world either (though again, there'll be exceptions).

It'd be nice, but I think we'd all end up paying a lot more for it.

7
2

I think that's the point though...

Native apps are almost DESIGNED to be a tie-in. Companies have to gamble which one will bring in the most moolah, and mostly choose iPhone because of the purchasing power - hence Apple get the tie-in bonus!

If you could have something that ran WEB apps on it with native hooks and write-once-run anywhere then this advantage disappears - Boot to Gecko being one of the outcomes.

I DO begrudge paying for duplicate functionailty per platform really - I realise that it takes time to rewrite but that's not MY problem - that's a decision made by the platform incumbents to create an ecosystem that benefits them.

6
2

Re: I think that's the point though...

that's a decision made by the platform incumbents to create an ecosystem that benefits them.

The problem is the developers have to work with this system too, and they're the ones setting the prices.

I completely agree though, would be nice to have something like web apps that could use native hooks. Never likely to happen though, as it means there's no reason to pay Apple/Google any commission if you don't need to sell through their App Store. End result, the browsers not likely to support the hooks

1
3
WTF?

Re: I think that's the point though...

"Native apps are almost DESIGNED to be a tie-in"

Which makes it all the funnier that Steve Jobs originally insisted that all iPhone development would be in JavaScript, and only released a native SDK after intense lobbying!

4
0
Silver badge

Most companies I know (there are exceptions) won't let me have the OSX or Linux version just because I've already paid for the Windows version. Can't see it happening in the mobile world either (though again, there'll be exceptions).

Absolutely true, but there is an interesting exception: games. On Steam, if a game I own comes out for a new platform, I get it automatically. It's never been otherwise. It would be interesting if Valve eventually had that kind of influence on mobile apps. After all, there's a Steam mobile app. Not too much of a stretch to picture a Steam mobile games store that's cross platform.

4
0
Silver badge
Boffin

This is how it should be done

Lonely Cat Games who do ProfIMail for Symbian phones allow you to change devices up to 20 times. Now that ProfiMail has come out for Android that includes Android devices so you can switch from Symbian to Android and bring your configuration and mail with you.

Then there's Steam where SteamPlay games work on both Windows and Mac as mentioned above.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: This is how it should be done

The ideal of having one app run across several platforms is only conceivable because smart phones have settled down to mostly being roughly between 3.5" and 4.5", with touch, gyros and GPS... If a device was significantly different to the current crop of phones, then an app would probably need re-designing anyway.

0
0
Silver badge

Re: This is how it should be done

Going back to ProfiMail, it works just as well for QWERTY keypad, T9 keypad, and touch phones.

0
1
Bronze badge

wxWidgets... Julian and Harriet Smart

May the Lords of Kobol guard and guide them, for these two are among the enligtened few who DO let us have a choice of and one each of Linuc, Mac, and Windows versions of StoryLines/Writer's Café.

http://www.anthemion.co.uk/

I only stumbled upon them years ago not because i was looking for screenplay software or for a way to politically grind an axe, but because -- IIRC -- i was looking for ships related software, and wxWidgets was in tne search return, in, -- IIRC -- Opera or Firefox. Pursuing curiosity, i found Writer's Café. I have bought at least two versions, or one and updated at least or maybe twice.

Why the hell will not many other developers do it? I believe they are beholden to ms and apple marketing dollars and fiendish servile mentality, and chasing that Almighty Dollar. IIUC, in the case of Korea, two factors keep ms ahead, aside from ms dollars: it is easier for government and banks to herd and reinforce supporting ms first, mac grudgingly, and linux almost nil. And, developer or developers' bosses' arrogance and pride refuse to more openly cater to Linux. Just try using Naver or banking, or a slew of other apps online in Korea and feel fury engulf you because you must have ie and active x or other ms layers on a machine the server can graft onto... Ummm, work with.

There are some database and accounting packages, too, written by enlightened people.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

I remember it well.

I was using Opera 5.something. I downloaded Firefox and tried it at work for a week before switching back again. It's nice and all, but Firefox has always been a bit of a bloater. I think I mostly used Galleon at home at the time.

3
7
Silver badge
Trollface

wow amazing

Wow what do you know a regular Opera user. I figured here in the states I would come across a Lumia owner first (still haven't). You sir much like the AmigaOS holdouts are a rare breed.

3
1
Silver badge

Well, I was waiting for that

Only a matter of time before the Opera lot showed up.

Firefox has always been a bit of a bloater? I used to run it from a floppy disk. No joke.

1
0
Thumb Down

Re: Well, I was waiting for that

I still have a floppy disk with Netscape 0.9c for Windows on it. 900kB, as I recall, so you could get the Trumpet Winsock IP stack on there as well. Out of interest I've just tried "sudo apt-get install firefox" on the Lubuntu machine I'm writing this on. It's a 20MB download and needs 42MB of disk space.

And on my Xubuntu desktop, Firefox is still a bloated crawler, taking about four times as long to start as Chrome and using half a gigabyte of RAM just to show the google search page.

0
1
Mushroom

@ Ian Johnston Re: Well, I was waiting for that

"And on my Xubuntu desktop, Firefox is still a bloated crawler, taking about four times as long to start as Chrome and using half a gigabyte of RAM just to show the google search page."

Really? Something up there. 22 tabs open (half a dozen El Reg, couple of Google results pages, various tech sites and some with embedded video) and "only" using 200Mb. Running Zorin and not using "half a gig" for the whole system!

That said, once I'm done with the current lot I'll switch to Opera for a while and see how I feel about it.

(How does one get an advertising job with Google? For the right money I could switch to Chrome and even (for the right money) say that I like it! :) )

0
0
Silver badge

Re: Well, I was waiting for that

I still have a floppy disk with Netscape 0.9c for Windows on it. 900kB, as I recall, so you could get the Trumpet Winsock IP stack on there as well. Out of interest I've just tried "sudo apt-get install firefox" on the Lubuntu machine I'm writing this on. It's a 20MB download and needs 42MB of disk space.

Let's play a game called "spot the past tense". I don't run it from a floppy any more, partly because it no longer fits and partly because I don't use floppy disks any more, genius.

Firefox is still a bloated crawler, taking about four times as long to start as Chrome and using half a gigabyte of RAM just to show the google search page.

Aaaaand I call bullshit. Chrome and FF have similar loading times on my Kubuntu desktop, as well as my Win7 one. And the only way it's going to take 500MB for one page is if you had many other pages open very recently, in which case it still has them cached in case you bring them back, which is a (quite useful) feature of the browser. So sick of this stupid FUD argument, especially on modern machines where it makes no difference. Using RAM != slow and bloated. Get a clue.

2
0
Stop

+1

"I was using Opera 5.something. I downloaded Firefox and tried it at work for a week before switching back again. It's nice and all, but Firefox has always been a bit of a bloater."

Firefox was slow as hell too, going back to Opera was a pleasure.

0
0
Silver badge

Re: Well, I was waiting for that

"And on my Xubuntu desktop, Firefox is still a bloated crawler, taking about four times as long to start as Chrome and using half a gigabyte of RAM just to show the google search page."

I'm calling bullshit. I've got 5 pages running at the moment (all el reg) in firefox. It also has AdBlock Plus and the British English dictionary extensions running. It's currently taking up just under 200MB of RAM on my Xubuntu machine.

Anyone comparing the memory footprint of a modern browser and one from over 10 years ago, who then goes on to use it a proof of bloat, clearly does not understand how much web page complexity has increased in that time.

0
0
kit

Re: +1

Download the latest firefox 15 or 16 beta. It is faster than chrome by split of a second and very stable when surfing the web.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

You could argue, had Microsoft cleaned up and the Web had morphed into some monstrosity of x86 specific proprietary binaries then we would probably have something a lot better by now, instead of which we are still waiting for <video/>.

1
2
Silver badge

You could argue that, but on the other hand we'd not yet have had the smartphone revolution or any particularly usable tablets because it's only ARM's virtual ownership of that market that's made Intel chips even slightly suitable for low-power use.

3
0
Anonymous Coward

You could argue that indeed...

...but you'd be wrong, and the rest of the internet would laugh in your face.

0
1
Silver badge
Stop

"Firefox 1.0 is arguably the most important technology developed in the last 50 years"

You're joking, right?

10
3
Silver badge
FAIL

Re: "Firefox 1.0 is arguably the most important technology developed in the last 50 years"

The key to that statement being arguably. I would nominate networking technology in general or the internet itself before Firefox but what do I know.

2
0
Mushroom

Re: "Firefox 1.0 is arguably the most awful technology developed in the last 50 years"

You made a typo, but it's ok, I fixed it for you...

Ah yes, Firefox, the browser that took the dog's egg known as 'tabbed browsing' from netscape. From the standpoint of fitt's law it's quite possibly one of the least useful UI design ideas ever to become popular. That said, with Google rapidly turning Chrome into the next IE4 we may still need it yet...

1
10
Alert

Msi ?

Still no official msi. Mozilla still missing out there .

0
3
Anonymous Coward

Re: Msi ?

Don't cry over that! You have Portable Firefox which is even better than that, you need no installation at all.

1
1
Bronze badge

Regarding the point that we need Firefox OS to keep Google and Apple in line - I'm not sure that is the case at all. Android is already open with downloadable source available to everyone, and it is already, arguably illegally in breach of GPL forked by many a far-eastern manufacturer.

If we really needed a 3rd mobile OS, WinMo would be a bigger success than it's "rounding error" (to turn that term Ballmer so liked to use to describe competition) market penetration indicates.

There is even an argument that 2 mobile OS-es is too many and that iOS only got there purely on the strength of cult-following that Apple has as a brand - after all, you cannot buy a non-Apple device with iOS.

And let's not forget there is also Tizen (Maemo+Moblin->MeeGo->Tizen) - if we _really_ needed a 3rd mobile OS. While I wish Firefox OS the best of luck, something tells me that it's market penetration entirely depends on manufacturers getting behind it, but Android seems to have enough market momentum that the innertia of it is likely to prove impossible to overcome, or even dent. Ultimately - what is it that Firefox OS plans to bring to the table that Android doesn't already provide?

0
3
Anonymous Coward

One small mistake here

While Linux is GPL-licensed Android is not, so it can be forked at will. This is by design, Google did it like this so phone makers could add proprietary extensions in all impunity. No breach to see here unless you're talking about an illegal forking of the Linux kernel which we are not aware of.

3
0
Bronze badge

Re: One small mistake here

@AC:

Not quite. The hard part about porting Android and using it on different devices isn't the userspace, it's the kernel support for one of the bazillion SoCs and device implementations that are being used. Manufacturers write their own proprietary kernel patches and ship devices with them. They never make the source code for those kernel patches available. There is a truly mind-bogglying number of GPL violations relating to Android devices, including some major names. IIRC it took some major pressure and a long time before HTC released the kernel sources for their devices. StorageOptions have also never released the full sources to the kernel for their Telechips based Scroll tablets. There are many examples.

0
1

What about starting off with some nice Principles, lad!

"what is it that Firefox OS plans to bring to the table that Android doesn't already provide?"

Principles, ethics, morality, openness, freedom.....all the things which corporations whose ultimate goal is to monetise everything care nothing for beneath all the hyperbole and posturing.

I applaud and adore Mozilla's non-profit, benefits-for-all ethos. As they are definitely not in it for the money, you know you can trust them. At a time when we are expected to nervously swallow down the surrender of huge swathes of our personal data in exchange for the techno-delights our gadgets bring us, I think the value of a genuinely trustworthy organisation is absolutely priceless.

I'm an Android boy, I don't currently have any issue with Google, but I'm increasingly uneasy about every bit of my private data being hoovered-up by them and converted into cash. If that data was being handled by Mozilla, who aren't trying to make money out of me, I would feel way more comfortable.

I am keenly following the development of 'Firefox Mobile OS', and think that web apps sound like the liberation of phone apps from the clutches of the likes of Google, Apple etc.

7
0
Silver badge

Re: What about starting off with some nice Principles, lad!

^^ What that man said. Mozilla have almost always acted in the best interests of their users, and the web in general. For example, with their sync, you get given the encryption key for your data. And with their software, they value the same things I do: expandable, highly customisable functionality, and an accurate rendering engine. Gecko still kicks the shit out of everything else when it comes to development, and the mobile browser has come leaps and bounds since it debuted.

Not the fastest group, and they have of late occasionally hinted at an inferiority complex, but their attitudes are far more in line with my own than many other similar organisations out there. That's why they're one of the projects I've donated to, and one of the stands I made a beeline for at the MWC in Barca this year.

It's also why I have the Boot2Gecko project checked out on my Linux partition. ;-) Tizen, too.

0
0
Coat

So, where did it all go wrong?

This is opinion based on my own experience.

I started using the browser when it had some naming confusion - firebird.

At that time, ie4 dominated, microsoft got it right, Netscape had lost the plot with 'communicator', it became bug ridden bloatware.

I was dedicated to the cause, made a few donations, got the t-shirt and generally told everyone I could to give it a try.

It fitted perfectly with the birth of web standards, the rise of the 'ethical' web programmer - 'take back the web' was more than just a dig at microsoft for many, it was a dig at what commercial interests had wrought. A complete mess that led to the .com meltdown.

Somewhere between then and now, in my humble opinion, Firefox has come close to the fate of the ashes it sprang from. Certainly, it's a far cry from the mess that Netscape became. It's still a very capable browser, but compared to webkit based browsers, it's lagging behind.

The same people that lauded it, that promoted it, that lived and breathed the ethos behind what it stood for, are (mostly) now chrome users.

The reason is simple - it's a better browser. How arguable is that? Well, anything is arguable, but I think the numbers speak for themselves.

So, where does firefox go from here?

How does it take back the share from the young upstart?

Not easily. Google has become synonymous with web search, maps, mobile - heck, the internet itself.

The sheer clout it has in terms of revenue and marketing muscle is part of the reason Chrome has forged ahead of firefox.

The other reason?

It's a better browser.

I'll get my coat ...

5
1
Anonymous Coward

Re: So, where did it all go wrong?

As I can't edit this, I need to take back the bit I wrote about mozilla coming close to the fate of netscape.

I was more referring to bloat, but the comparison is a bad one - netscape went horribly commercial, so in that sense, there's no comparison at all.

*sniff* - I'm just trying to be loyal to the browser I stood by for six years - it was tough leaving it as my primary browser, but damn it all, bloat has set in...

2
1
Silver badge
FAIL

Re: So, where did it all go wrong?

Now that Firefox is largely cloning Chrome (can't beat em join em) the differences are much less pronounced than when Chrome first hit the scene and Firefox was a bloated overengineered (XPCOM wtf?) slow unstable POS. Since then Firefox has gotten its act together quite well due to the competition but too late for many who see little reason to switch back (I only do for banking with the NoScript protection and I like it on Android though I think its webkit now).

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: So, where did it all go wrong?

"though I think its webkit now"

Nope, it's still using Gecko. It just is using a Java-based interface instead of XUL.

1
0

Re: So, where did it all go wrong?

No webkit on Android. All Gecko (with a native Android UI on top). Despite a lot of PR to the contrary, Gecko's a pretty great rendering engine and getting much much better by the day right now.

I'm not sure what the "cloning Chrome" comment is about. Both browsers do have tabs and a back button. XPCOM is still around, and I don't think is going to leave anytime soon. Just get faster.

1
0

Re: So, where did it all go wrong?

Bloated? My Firefox directory is 39MB, and the Chrome application directory is 325MB! That's NOT including any cached data.

I just got done reworking my company site, and I discovered that Firefox is now doing a much better job than WebKit browsers at rendering some CSS3 features. Borders with border radius, in particular and in combination with box shadows, look a lot better with Firefox than with Chrome.

1
0
Silver badge
Facepalm

Revisionism

This is Firefox's legacy, and it's too often obscured by the waxing and waning of market share numbers. So today when we use Chrome, Opera or even Safari, we should thank Mozilla and the community that enabled this choice.

So Mozilla enabled my choice of a browser that was developed 8 years before Mozilla existed? (see http://www.opera.com/company/) Since I was already using Opera when Firefox 1.0 came out, I never had a reason to switch.

1
2
Anonymous Coward

Re: Revisionism

And you think that if MS 'owned' the web today, Opera et.al. would even be an option any more?

3
0
Megaphone

Re: Revisionism

Only because the "web cognoscenti" only care about software made in the USofA. Opera, like Nokia, have always been dissed by the ones that make the official histories.

3
4

Page:

This topic is closed for new posts.